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There is something about the way the autumn leaves fall. From their graceful flight to the ground to the way they arrange themselves on the concrete, almost perfectly. Graceful, yet tragic.
But there was something tragic about winters, wasn’t there? Autumn is probably a reminder, a warning that a ruthless season lies ahead.
Lucy detested winters. As she walked down the narrow path trampling upon the withered leaves, which rustled beneath her black suede boots, she began thinking of all that lay ahead. Like all other winters. With all roads and highways that would be closed due to the snow, she would have no choice but to stay in her house. Witness it all. There was no escape for her.
She couldn’t discreetly drive away to her best friend’s house. Or have a summer job.
Yes, she preferred waiting tables.
But with a few months left before she would turn 18, Lucy tried to tolerate. Just 4 more months and she would become an adult and graduate. Move away from this one horse town and call her own shots.
She brushed aside the lock of light brown hair that she had inherited from her mother, took a deep breath and started walking towards her home a little more confidently. She crossed Gemini Diners and started missing her summer days of serving people shepherd pies. She wanted the money, but more than that, she wanted to forget about her life and wanted to chat and joke with other waitresses or get people food. That wasn’t so bad, in fact that wasn’t bad at all.
As she continued walking back home from school, she reminded herself of talking to Molly to convince her mom to get her a part time job in her café. Lucy was certain she would be willing to help her, even though business was slack during this time of the year. Winters in Wester Hill was the time when everyone spent most of their time snug and cozy inside their houses with their families, sharing the warm feeling of simply being around the people they loved most.
But all Lucy hoped for was finding a new way to escape the hellhole she was supposed to call home.
Immersed in her own thoughts, she suddenly caught her reflection in the glass door. She liked the way her gleaming wavy chestnut hair fell on her shoulder. Her lips pink and delicate. Even though she didn’t like to think of herself as attractive, sometimes she thought she really was. With a slender figure and a height which did not require her to wear heels all the time, she thought of what Jo told her the other day. “It’s like you deliberately want NOT to look too good. Wait till prom and I will make sure every millimeter of your face is covered in makeup!”
At that moment though, her eyes, soft vivid blue, twitched and recalled something she could never run away from.
She tried dressing down in front of him, thinking that it would help. Like tying her hair in a boring ponytail, or wearing sweatpants and extra loose T-shirts at home or always going to school dressed in a pair of jeans, but it never helped. She could never decipher how to avoid it. It was then that she felt her eyes burning with tears welling in her eyes, threatening to roll down her slightly freckled cheekbones. She blinked furiously, rubbing her eyes with the back of the sleeves of her jacket and continued walking.
“You’re home early!”
She unlocked the front door and saw her father in the kitchen.
“Yes, honey. Guess I missed you, eh?”
There he did it again. THAT smirk. Emotions were running high. She felt like bursting into tears and crying and screaming and throwing things that were in her way. But no, she asserted she wasn’t weak. She’ll resist. And she’ll object. Like each time before. But this time, she would succeed.
She looked at him with repugnance, not wanting to be caught looking weak. Pushing her hair out of her face, she quickly turned back to go upstairs and shut herself in her room without a second thought. But somewhere in the back of her mind she was certain she couldn’t escape. No matter how much she wanted to.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
A sound of hurried footsteps followed her as her father came from behind and grabbed her with a force so strong and powerful, she could barely breathe, let alone resist it. His arms were now around her waist and his breathing was harsh and rugged in Lucy’s ears. She could smell the alcohol on his breath and she winced as his facial hair rubbed against her cheek. She felt her body shiver fiercely under the clutch of his hands, and then a terror seized her heart.
She gave in. Whom was she kidding? She WAS weak. And powerless. And helpless.
Lucy blinked awake the next morning with an ambiguous understanding of what happened yesterday. It was like one of those moments, where just for a millisecond, you don’t remember why you ever felt so weighed down and tormented. That time when you forget what’s wrong with your life.
It all came rushing back.
That man, violating her again. Muffled screams of pain and agony.
She was still curled up in the corner of her room against the wall, sunlight seeping through the windows of her room on her glowing skin now purple with bruises and enveloped in scars.
Her face was pressed to her knees, and eyes still throbbing with desperate, angry pain. She had spent most of her night silently crying in the corner of her room. And like every time, she swore to herself that she wouldn’t let this happen to her again. She swore to be strong enough to not give in the next time. She swore to be courageous enough to run away. She swore to never let there be a next time. Like every time, she swore.
She didn’t eat anything that day. She refused to speak to her mother who persisted in bringing her little comforts like soft blankets, her favourite food, but Lucy just looked at her with tired, tears stained eyes and continued to lie there.
When she refused to go to school her mother, too, snapped at her instead of consoling her. It was she, after all, who taught her to be in denial, to endure the suffering, to lie or better still, to remain “silent”.
He ISN’T my biological father. He can’t be.
But I can’t break down right now. Four more months to go and I’ll escape.
I wish I wasn’t born into this world. I would have ended my misery sooner. But a voice inside my head keeps telling me, “FOUR MORE MONTHS.” Maybe I might move away when I get into college. Maybe I can begin my life afresh.
Disappointingly for her, she couldn’t hide behind the comfort of knowing that the man wasn’t related to her by blood and that if her biological father existed all this would have never happened and she would have lived a normal life with a normal family who loved her.
Because he WAS her biological father. Also an abusive alcoholic, but only behind closed doors.
Their two story house, built in Victorian Style with a drive way and a small front lawn, looked like any other house on the block. But nobody knew of the horrific incidents that had been taking place inside the walls of this beautiful house.
Her father was also, a well-respected real estate agent who no one could ever imagine would be sexually abusing his only daughter.
Lucy was repulsed by men. Any male. Even if it were a five year old boy, because she knew what he would grow up into. After what a man whose genes she inherited did to her, she wasn’t to be blamed.
She was afraid. Perhaps this was the reason why she never came out to talk to anybody about the abuse. But it certainly wasn’t the only one. There was guilt and shame which accompanied her fear. Her mother chided her when she mustered up all her strength to confide in her. Her mother feared that he would end up abusing Lucy all the more if she confronted him. And Lucy feared rejection. She feared being labelled as an “outcast”.
Lately though, her father hadn’t been keeping very well. And Lucy didn’t really mind that. She tried to feel guilty about feeling “relieved” because of it, but she couldn’t.
Those days, she felt liberated somehow. Her friends noticed the change but couldn’t gauge the reason behind it. She caught up on her pending homework and started enjoying cheesy romantic comedies. Consequently spending lesser time over thinking about her “secret” or what her life would turn out to be.
“Hey, I heard your dad was hospitalized yesterday! Is it something serious?”
“Well, the test results aren’t out yet. So no one knows. But I don’t think it is anything serious. It’s probably just a flu.”
“So, it means we’re on for the movie tomorrow?”
It was a little strange answering Molly’s question about her father. That was the time when reality finally hit her hard. Her father would soon get better and then everything would go back to what it was like before. Or not.
She walked home and went up to her room feeling inexplicably exhausted after the thought of it all. And that was when all thoughts were severed from her mind.
I am scared. Scared because I don’t want to be alone in all of this. No, I do not expect you to forgive me after a wave of epiphany; neither do I hope that you will understand the situation. I want to be as pragmatic about it as possible. Yes, I know, I have pretty much ruined you for any potential relation you will ever have – friendship, marriage or motherhood. But I have problems, Lucy. Problems lie in my own head and the battles that I have been fighting for the longest time still persist. You are my child – my ONLY child and I would never have a vendetta against you. The monster is in me and I think I have to accept it.
I am not seeking an apology. I am trying to find an outlet. Because I feel so much more disgusted with myself than you do. And at least there is one thing we both are sure of – in a matter of days, we both will be liberated.
-Dad (if you can call me that)
Lucy was stumped, and re read the note continuously until it made sense.
She couldn’t fathom what prompted this sudden realization from his father. Sudden inundation of emotions began flooding her mind. The note was an apology… sort of. She did not comprehend as to why he had to write this letter with such ambiguity. Some parts couldn’t even make sense to her.
And the parts that did – well, that left her all the more disgusted with the man who is supposed to be her “dad”. Did he really think it was THAT easy? Write a crappy note for permanently scarring her soul – for turning her into this cynical person who always thinks a million times before trying to trust even her closest friends? She read it again. If he wasn’t seeking an apology, he was certainly is trying to invoke pity in her heart for himself.
No, she could not forgive him. She did desperately want to get past this trauma, but it wasn’t as trivial as this. Every time his father blatantly ignored her shrieking pleas to leave her, every time she woke up after the indescribably painful act feeling more disgusted with her father and herself - those were the times she promised herself to not to forgive him. Ever.
A few hours later, her doorbell rang and she anxiously opened it.
“Lucy, we need to talk.”
“Yeah, but tell me where were you, Mom. I was worried sick over here. Were you still at the hospital?”
“Yes. Honey, you dad’s test results, they were out this morning.”
“Oh. So where is he?”
“He’s not here. Lucy I want you to sit down and listen to me carefully…”
“Lucy, you can’t lock yourself up in your room the entire night. You should know we’re in this together. If you don’t want to talk to him, it’s fine. But you have to go the doctor first and… ”
Words were unable to escape her mouth when she stormed opened her bedroom door and saw Lucy… lying in a pool of blood… with self-inflicted cuts.
“Sorry mom. There were a lot of ways I thought I could get on with my life. None of those ways included this. I could live with a sexually abusive father. Or a voiceless mother. But not with an incurable disease. So no, I don’t forgive him. And I don’t forgive you either.